Sunday, July 31, 2011

Do Over ... What Happens in Vegas

originally published 1/14/10
I was born with a gambling gene that many of my fellow New Orleanians share (my mom had it for sure). The technical name is the "Seeya-Raiseya-Splitem-Hitme Blazing7s gene". Not familiar with it? Then you've probably never been to Vegas.

I visit "kind of" regularly ... although last year, we cut back to 14 times.

On our last visit, we decided to see a couple of shows (a major compromise for me) ... one of which was Donny and Marie at the Flamingo. Debbie was a big fan of Donny's when she (and he) were going through puberty together. I was never a real fan of either ... then again ... I only discovered puberty in the last few years.

Actually ... I had met Marie many years earlier.

When the Childrens' Miracle Network Telethon was first organized, 28 years ago, I was in Chicago with the 10 other childrens' hospital foundation directors who decided to take a chance on a new concept in fundraising ... a national telethon designed to raise money for the local partners instead of the other way around ... a local effort to raise money for a national telethon (like Jerry Lewis). The Osmond Foundation were the founders and Marie was the host. Over the next few years she flew back and forth to St. Pete to meet with our donors.

So as we stood in line waiting to enter the club where Donny and Marie were performing, Debbie said to me ... "Tell them that you know Marie and maybe we can talk to her ... and DONNY!" I reluctantly gave my card to the girl at the hostess desk and asked her ... "Would you give this to Marie? I know her ... at least I used to know Marie ... that is ... we kinda did business together ... it's been a while ..."

She answered without looking up ... "She doesn't take messages before the show. Try afterward ... NEXT!"
I'm sure she tore up my card as soon as we took our seats for the show. I sat there and mentally kicked myself  ... I must have sounded like an old groupie.

After the show finished Debbie said ... "Let's see if we can find them." Sure. Just what I wanted to do after getting shut down by the front door girl. But we wandered out the door and toward the back of the theater where there was the lineup for the meet and greet. Everyone had on badges and lanyards looking official ... like a "fan club" ... and we .... hung around.

Finally a little guy with bad acne asked us if he could help us ... I confidently handed him a card and said ..."Would you give this to Marie? I know her ... at least I used to know Marie ... that is ... we kinda did business together ... it's been a while ..."

He said ... "Sure .... just wait here and maybe you can see her." He left with my card ... at least he pretended to want to take it.

Debbie said to me "You think Donny will be there too?"
I said ... "Drink some water and just cool down ... he'll be there."

A few minutes later ... a guy dressed in a Hollywood looking sportcoat came up to us and said: "Hi ... I'm Donny and Marie's tour manager. Come back with me."
I felt so relieved ... she must have remembered when he showed her the card ...
"Now you do KNOW Marie right?"
I had a moment of panic ... she didn't see the card ...
"Sure .... sure."
The manager said ...  pulling us aside ... "Good ... Okay ... here's what I want you to do. The woman who will be in front of you is a crazed Marie fan. She follows her everywhere and always brings a ton of Marie dolls for her to sign. Marie can't ever shake her ... so when I give you the hi sign I want you to come up and interrupt her and talk to Marie about old times okay?"
"Well ...."
" It's okay ... really .... she won't mind at all."

He left and I sweated in line worrying about Marie not remembering me and NOW I had to knock over some poor fan. I told Debbie we should go ... maybe sneak out .... no way Debbie was gonna leave ... not with the chance to see Donny.

Just then I hear a voice and see a familiar face. Joe Lake, the co founder of Children's Miracle Network comes up to say hello. I was thrilled to see him. We talk about old times ... I tell him what we're doing here and the "plan" to see Marie ...... he said ... great should be fine ... and then he dissappeared.

I'm left again with the urge to run as we inch up closer to Donny and Marie. Debbie is like a school girl .... and I am sweating like a stalker .... the REAL stalker walks up to Marie .... giggles and talks and pulls out all the Marie dolls and then I got ... THE PUSH from behind and I was staring right at Donny ...

He didn't miss a beat .... "JOEL. Is that you? How have you been (hugging me)?"
I whisper in his ear ... "Donny ... You don't know who the hell I am do you?"
He whispers back  ...."No ... Joe told me about you ... now go rescue Marie."

I did as I was told .... Marie was just lovely ... remembering some of our past experiences together or just being polite ... either way I was relieved to have gotten this over with ...

... It only took a few more hours to get Debbie away from Donny. (She kept dancing with him)

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